Where: Fenway Park, Boston, Mass
BOSTON – Young left-hander Brian Johnson was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket after Saturday’s game.But before he left, ending his second brief stay in the major leagues in 2017, he left a mark that could go a long way toward determining his future with the Boston Red Sox.
Johnson pitched a five-hit shutout as the Red Sox won their sixth straight with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
“That’s the reality of the game,” manager John Farrell said after Johnson, 26, struck out eight and walked none in his second win in as many tries this season — with 85 strikes in 109 pitches. “Brian’s aware of it and we had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday … (Johnson was) in complete command of this game.
“He was outstanding with first-pitch strikes, a great job with overall strike percentage … just really happy for him, as everyone is here, given all that he’s been through and just a game in complete control.”
Johnson, who was placed on the inactive list at Pawtucket last May 21 with anxiety issues, also has had elbow problems as well as being a victim of a carjacking.
Johnson pitched Boston’s first complete game of the season, the team’s first shutout since Steven Wright last Aug. 5 and Boston’s first at Fenway Park since Rich Hill on Sept. 25, 2015.
He became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his Fenway debut since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998.
“To even be mentioned with his name is incredible,” Johnson told WEEI after receiving a Gatorade shower after the game.
Only two runners reached scoring position in Johnson’s effort, both in the fifth inning, as the Red Sox posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since notching three in a row from Sept. 25-27, 2015.
“I don’t think it’s really hit yet — like I just told John (Farrell),” he said in the clubhouse. “I don’t think it’s hit. The crazy thing to think about: The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 (in the SEC tournament) and I made two pitches and today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool.”
According to STATS, Johnson became the seventh pitcher to throw 85 strikes with 109 pitches or less since such numbers were tracked in 1988.
As far as his return to Triple-A, Johnson said: “It’s part of it. You come up and make the most of your opportunity.”
“This is a great day for Brian Johnson,” said Farrell. “Great day. Glad that his dad was in town and could see it in person and hopefully this is a night they can share as a special moment.”
Johnson, Boston’s No. 7 prospect according to Baseball America, said he found his dad after the game and shared a hug.
The Red Sox have blanked the Mariners in each of the first two games of the series and have outscored their opposition 47-15 during the winning streak that has them two games out of first place.
Johnson received all kinds of help, from his defense. Right fielder Mookie Betts extended his glove over the right field wall to take a home run away from Nelson Cruz. Then, Jackie Bradley Jr. went to the center-field wall to take extra bases away from Robinson Cano before ending the game with two fine catches.
In addition, second baseman Dustin Pedroia, on the verge of committing his first error in 80 games, recovered from his failure to catch a grounder and flipped to second for a force play, with a nifty finish by shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning that ended the day for Mariners starter Rob Whalen (0-1), who made his debut with Seattle. The right-hander allowed three runs in the first inning, but survived because both Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez were thrown out on the bases — Ramirez at the plate after running a stop sign from third base coach Brian Butterfield. The play wasn’t close and ended the inning, perhaps keeping Whalen in the game.
Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon all stroked RBI singles in the first inning while Mitch Moreland added one in the eighth.
The Mariners have lost seven of their last eight games, scoring just nine runs in those games — five in the seven losses.
“Obviously we haven’t scored a run in a couple of games here in Boston. Not good,” said Seattle manager Scott Servais. “It wasn’t a good ballgame and we’re better than that.”
Added Cruz: “We’re proud of what we do, you know? This is embarrassing. I don’t think we should be in this situation. I understand we have injuries and all that but there’s a point where you have to turn everything around.”
NOTES: Some good news for members of the injury battered Seattle pitching staff on the DL: LHP James Paxton (forearm) will start Wednesday at home Wednesday night while RHPs Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iawkuma (both shoulder) threw 25-pitch bullpen sessions Saturday at Fenway Park. While Iwakuma’s was his first, Hernandez reported, “I felt very good,” and hinted he’s close. … Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia returned after missing a game and a half to keep his surgically repaired left knee off wet grounds. … Boston 3B Pablo Sandoval (knee) is finishing his Triple-A rehab and could return as soon as the series that starts in Chicago against the White Sox on Monday, with LHP David Price (elbow) making his 2017 debut in the opener of that series. … The Red Sox had two runners thrown out on the bases and lead the league in that category — led by Pedroia (one of the two Saturday) with five. … RHP Christian Bergman faces the Red Sox for the first time when he goes against RHP Rick Porcello in Sunday’s series finale.